Israeli tabloids urging NIF to ditch Palestinian and Lefty NGOs

Posted: September 20th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Israeli Tabloids Maariv and Israel Hayom, which led the attack on the New Israel Fund in recent months, celebrated yesterday what they believe is a change in the NIF policy regarding its support for leftwing organizations.

A page 4 story in Maariv, written by the paper’s reporter in New York, Tzah Yoked, has declared that “from now on, organizations that reject the right of the Jewish people to self-determination in Israel will no longer be eligible to receive money from the New Israel Fund.”

The story repeated some of the misleading information Maariv published in the past, claiming that NIF-backed organizations “served as the legal basis for the Goldstone report.” It concluded that:

The change [in NIF guidelines], it should be underscored, is more than merely cosmetic. This is a change that will oblige the New Israel Fund to reassess longstanding relationships it has had with organizations that until now had enjoyed its financial support, despite the fact that they explicitly advocated the establishment of a bi-national state and rejected the Jewish nature of the State of Israel.

Ben Dror Yemini, a conservative writer for Maariv and one of the leaders of the campaign against the NIF wrote that:

If the New Israel Fund truly does change the criteria for funding—it will be deserving of all praise. Rumors about that have been circulating for a long time.

Yemini also called the NIF to immediately stop supporting Adalah and the Women Coalition for Peace in order to show that it did change its ways.

In the tabloid Israel Hayom, senior columnist Dan Margalit accused NIF of flip-flopping, claiming that by clarifying that it would continue supporting left wing organizations, the NIF “ruined the correction” [of its wrongful policy], after “yesterday it seemed that the New Israel Fund had turned an attentive ear [to the criticism against it].”

It seems that the confusion over the NIF’s intentions got the progressive left worried as well. Blogger Richard Silverstein wrote that:

This is my lowest moment in an ambivalent relationship with NIF.  I cannot in good conscience support its work when it turns it back on its Palestinian grantees and an entire Palestinian NGO community.  I would urge these grantees to unite and protest this terrible formulation of the guidelines.  I can’t help but think if most of the Palestinian and even perhaps a few Jewish grantees refuse to apply for funding that this will send a shock through the system.

Silverstein also urged his readers to withdraw their support from the NIF until it changed its guidelines.

I don’t agree with Richard on this one. The NIF never backed from its support of Palestinians NGOs. In fact, it actually re-affirmed its commitment to them. As I wrote in an answer for Richard’s comment on my blog, I think we should give the NIF people more credit, and judge them according to their actions, not (only) their words.

I cannot overstate the importance of the NIF for those who still believe that the work of civil society organizations matters. The battle here is much larger than the argument over the new guidelines or the misquotation of someone. This is the front line of a war on the future of democracy in Israel. The NIF is under tremendous pressure these days, and so far they have dealt with it honorably. So though I have my own issues with some of the NIF’s statements and actions, I would wait a bit before I join those casting stones at it (even when it’s done for the best intentions).

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Didi Remez has contributed for this post.


NIF denies it will stop supporting Israeli organizations criticizing the Jewish character of the state

Posted: September 19th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, media, the US and us | Tags: , , , , , | 15 Comments »

The New Israel Fund denies that it will change its guidelines in ways that might end the support for organizations such as Mossawa Center and Adalah, who are openly calling for turning Israel into “a state for all its citizens” or a bi-national state.

The concern over the so-called new guidelines rose after an interview given by NIF director Daniel Sokatch to JTA. Sokatch was quoted saying that:

If we had an organization that made part of its project, part of its mission an effort to really, genuinely organize on behalf of creating a constitution that denied Israel as a sovereign vehicle for self-determination for the Jewish people, a Jewish homeland, if that became the focus of one of our organizations, we would not support that organization.

In recent months, the NIF was under pressure for its support of left wing and human rights organizations in Israel. A students group called Im Tirzu issued a report, claiming that the NIF-backed organizations were behind many of the allegations against Israel cited in the Goldstone Report. The allegations against the NIF were made public by Tabloids such as Maariv and Israel Hayom, and later repeated by members of the Knesset. Some of them are even trying to put limits on the political actions of the NIF.

Today, Maariv quoted Sokatch’s statement and speculated that the NIF has surrendered to the public campaign against it.

After the Yom Kippur holiday, I received an e-mail from an NIF spokesperson, asking to clarify the organization’s position on this issue. Later came an official statement:

The NIF shall continue to support, as it has done in the past, organizations protecting the rights of the State of Israel’s Arab citizens, such as Adalah and Mossawa – which the NIF even assisted to start…. Recent reports on changes in the NIF positions are wrong… The NIF was never a thought police, and it will never be one.

It sounds pretty straightforward, and I must admit that I never thought that the NIF will stop supporting an important organization like Adalah, which is something like the Israeli NAACP. I think that JTA rushed into conclusions here, and possibly even tried to push the NIF into a corner. Now the NIF must publicly declare that they would finance organizations that challenge the Jewish character of the state – something that wouldn’t look good with the Israeli public, and maybe even with their donors abroad – or abandon Mossawa and Adalah, which means betraying everything the NIF stands for. Everything they do could end up hurting them.

In the next few days, the NIF is expected to publish its new guidelines, and I guess that they will offer some more explanations for their future policy regarding the support of civil society organizations.


Knesset moves to outlaw human rights organizations in Israel

Posted: April 29th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, media, The Left | Tags: , , , , , , , | Comments Off

Something very troubling is happening to “the only democracy in the Middle East”

More than 20 MKs, including members of opposition party Kadima, proposed a new bill which will make it possible to outlaw the important human rights groups in Israel. Among the organizations mentioned in the proposed bill are Doctors for Human rights, The Coalition of Woman for Peace, The Public Committee against Torture in Israel, and Adalah: the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights. All these organizations receive funds from the New Israeli fund.

According to a report in Maariv, the new bill will outlaw any organization “which is involved in activity intended to lead to the prosecution or arrest of IDF officers and government officials for war crimes.”  the word “involved” makes it a very broad definition.

Two weeks ago, an article by Maariv’s Ben Caspit suggested that NIF sponsored organizations that are linked to an international effort to investigate and prosecute senior IDF officers for war crimes.

The introduction to the new bill declares that:

“… “Those organizations help foreign organizations that seek to issue arrest warrants and indictments against senior Israeli officials, either by means of providing information—the preponderance of which is erroneous and even mendacious—to foreign groups, or by publicly agreeing and lending credence to the accusation that Israel is guilty of war crimes.”

More than 20 MK’s signed the offer. Among them are known parliament members from Tzipi Livni’s opposition party Kadima, former head of Shin Beit Avi Dichter and members from Likud and NRP.

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From all the anti-democratic measures I’ve been writing about here, this is by far the most extreme. Even if a mild version of this law passes, defending human rights in Israel – a difficult task as is – will become practically impossible. Merely proposing this bill will harm grassroots efforts and freedom of speech, as both the media and the public are becoming more and more hostile to people and groups who are portrayed as unpatriotic or anti-Israeli.

Much of “the case for Israel” is based on the notion that this is a democracy – the only one in a hostile environment. But Israel is changing. This is not something that you see on a one week vacation in Jerusalem or from the Tel Aviv beach, but if you pay close attention to the news, you can easily notice it.

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